State law may not require that Rod Blagojevich step down when he hasn’t been convicted of anything–or even when he has–but the pressure on him to do so is already soaring. Every politician who can get anybody to listen has called on him to quit, starting with his lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who so recently was campaigning for the early release of our last governor-turned-convict, asked state legislative leaders to remove the governor’s power to fill the Senate seat, and they said they’ll comply. Other legislators have threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if the gov doesn’t remove himself soon.
And even if, as he maintains, Barack Obama didn’t have any conversations with the governor about deals for his old Senate seat, it never helps a politician to have to issue denials of his involvement in payoff scandals back home–especially when he’s trying to convince skeptics that his stimulus plan doesn’t simply amount to wasteful government spending.
I, for one, won’t attempt to predict how Blagojevich will respond; count me among those who never would have guessed that, after watching several inner-circle advisers sent to prison, he’d involve himself in another, even cruder round of pay-to-play and political retribution. (Withholding state payments from Children’s Memorial Hospital? Good god.) Blagojevich might see he doesn’t have many friends or any political future and summon a little dignity to say so long; he might say screw it, I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m sticking around til you make me go; or maybe he’ll offer Patrick Fitzgerald a U.S. Senate appointment in return for dropping charges against him. Little would shock us at this point.
Still, the worse he makes it on the rest of the Chicago political establishment, the less help he’s likely to have for his fight to stay or get out of jail. George Ryan at least figured that one out.